Nur Ein XVI: Round Three "Pleasant Row"

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arby
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Three "Pleasant Row"

Post by arby »

seemanski wrote:
Sat Jun 12, 2021 12:42 pm
This absolutely blew me away. It was something special. Well chuffed for you both.

I'm hoping everyone sees this as a something to try (the word being try) to better in the rounds to come, I know I have.
There is no way I could even hope to come CLOSE to the brilliance of Grumpy Mike's song with my limited skills at this point in time. I'm treating Nur Ein like golf - just playing against myself and trying to get better each time than I was last week.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Three "Pleasant Row"

Post by Cybronica »

I wrote some reviews (re: six). Sorry I couldn’t get to all the songs this week!

Nur Ein XVI round 3

Written in order of the lyrics page postings

Lowest Bitter: this song sounds a bit like Berlin - pointillistic and poppy - with a ray of sunshine shining through. Berlin was the last place I travelled to before the pandemic, so it made me super nostalgic. I love the harmonies on each “pleasant row” at the start and end, and the echoing call backs backing vocals in the section before the german. Voms german is hilariously on point for the bumbling tourist bit. I don’t have any criticisms- this song is exactly what you were going for!

Balance: This Song is very peppy and up beat for such a sad lyric. I think the joviality of the music undercuts what could could have been a very meaningful lyric. Don’t get me wrong- I like the music a lot, and wouldn’t have had this critic if I hadn’t read the lyrics. It’s fun and a great orchestration of timbres, but mismatched. I also think the syllabic distribution on the ‘why do we live’ section is not optimal- could be following how the words want to express themselves, as opposed to fitting all the syllables onto a line. I love the guests. The serviettes’ harmonies are heartbreaking. Yuki’s vocals are are beautiful- have we heard her on song flight before? She has such a rich timbre.

Budget Bears: the shift to half time in the chorus is fantastic- really makes this song exciting. Not sure how I feel about the syllabi fixation of the verses- my gut says it makes the poetry lose something, but my other gut says that it’s completely correct and stylistic for this kind of song. That guest vocal.. man, what an impressive list of insults! Love hearing them delivered so sincerely. As much as i like the chorus half time, I’m not so impressed by the ending, having the chorus up to speed, and then slowed down like that- it sounded out of place. I’m trying to figure out what made this one different from the ones before- I think it’s that the notes are all the same length, and it just feels… hokey. Otherwise, though, great song!

Seemanski: I love the build on this song. And the way the the guitar bends pitch to match the vocal line. Why did you separate cemetery by so much? I had a hard time understanding that line until I read the lyrics. This is a great subject, the way in the ending you are just having so much fun with it- love it.

BWBW: I feel like this should be the theme song for Hot Fuzz. I love how the first chorus melody goes up- after the downward melodies of the first verse, it’s a really special moment. I wish it was also there in the the second chorus, because otherwise it’s pretty samesies throughout. The German sections are cool, and a good translation, but the voice is a bit set back in the mix.

Ever Kenieval: I love how the other languages sound like “row on” if you’re not listening for another language. This song very easily been monotonous, but the way you layer the parts and change up the vocals keep it interesting throughout. I’m a fan. I wish the voices had more similar treatments between them so that the cannon at the end blended better, but it still sounded great.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Three "Pleasant Row"

Post by JonPorobil »

Belated judge reviews - in order of my rankings, from bottom to top. It was a strong round overall. We're getting to the point where I'm ranking even songs that I like low on the list, so I hope you all don't take it too personally!

Cavedwellers - I get that I'm just being an uncultured philistine here, but I just never got used to that discordant section you open on and which repeats a later in the song. I also thought there was a harsh quality to the Polish vocals that didn't work for me. It has an unhinged quality, like the lead singer for Gogol Bordello, but I actually like Gogol Bordello, so I'm not sure what's not clicking for me here. I like the message behind your lyrics, and wanted to like it more overall. The performances here are great. I especially liked the flute solo, and I mostly like the mix. I think from my perspective, the song never fulls recovers from knocking me off kilter in the introduction.


Berkeley Social Scene - "When I die and they lay me to rest, I'm gonna go to the place that's the best." ;-) Your influences are worn proudly on your sleeve this time around. I really like your chorus on this one. It might be the hookiest thing you've submitted so far. I especially love how the background vocals sing counterpoint over the last chorus. However, Martin's vocal is pretty rough, unfortunately; I heard some really obvious pitch correction in his verse. There are two bigger things holding this song back, as far as I'm concerned. One is that, even though there's a different singer for each verse, I don't think the characters are differentiated enough. If each verse had been sung by the same singer (therefore presumably playing the same character), I wouldn't have been any the wiser. The other thing is your take on the challenge. Don't get me wrong - I don't think this disqualifies you. The challenge has been met, as far as I'm concerned. But it's been met in a way that has a minimal impact on the song. If the one foreign-language line had been sung in English instead, would any other aspect of the song or our reaction to it have been different?


WreckdoM - What can I say? You guys have always been a bit of an acquired taste. Trouble is, I don't think this song is playing to your strengths. It's not as overtly weird as a lot of your other songs (by which I guess I mean surrealist/psychadelic?), but it still has that lo-fi grime, which doesn't work as well when the lyrical subject matter is more straightforward (at least, by WreckdoM standards). I'm also not sure what the Italian vocals are adding to the song - I guess it's similar to Cavedwellers' song where the foreign language speaker is emphasizing the myth of American Exceptionalism by pointing out how the US has many of the same problems (or worse ones, in some cases!) as the nations that some Americans claim to be superior to... I don't know, it seems like the point is more weakly-made in this song.


Nick Soma - This was on the bubble for me, and I felt badly for ranking it as low as I did. I like the strucutre, the performances, and how the lyrical subject matter linked up with the challenge. The choice of Sanskrit as a foreign language was unique, and I think the song was built well to suit that concept. However, on repeat listens, I got really frustrated with the lack of dynamic range. It does have distinct sections, but they're musicially indistinguishable, which kind of put my ear to sleep. You've already acknowledged this and explained your reasoning for it, but in the end I think the song would have been better with at least a little more variation throughout.


Governing Dynamics - And now I know what French sounds like with a Scottish accent. Cool. Also, your lyrics left one pretty darn important line of French untranslated. I looked it up, but I wonder if anyone else missed out on that. Anyway, as with your previous songs, I think there's a really good three-and-a-half minute song hiding in this five-and-a-quarter-minute track. You have good ideas, but I just don't think this song has so much going on that it just needs to be more than five minutes long. I wrote a long thing about this in my belated "Drag Me Around" reviews, but you'd already turned this song in before I posted that review, and also acknowledged your disagreement about this being an aspect of your songwriting that needs work. So I won't repeat myself; I'll just say that you and Joe had already said everything this song had to say by a little more than halfway through it.


See-Man-Ski - Your arrangement and performances are all quite nice, but I just couldn't get on board with the lyrics this time around. It didn't help that yours was the least funny of the three humorous songs this round, but also I wasn't clear on the central joke. Is this satire, or were you just trying to be silly? If it's satire, who's the target? If it's not, then what's my reason for caring?


The Lowest Bitter - You've got the "emotional core" aspect of this song down pat. The fond nostalgia permeates every aspect of this song, including, presumably, the musical genre, with the slick guitar work and light synth elements. I think you'd benefit greatly from a different/better type of microphone and/or different mixing technique. Your songs tend to have these high quality musical beds, either composed of well-recorded and well-mixed instruments, or at least of well-chosen loops, but then when your voice starts up, it's like we've suddenly switched genres. I think you could be a force to reckon with in this competition if you get a condender microphone, record it in a decent room, and get a decent handle on how to blend your voice with your mixes.


Max Bombast - I really dig the bouncy guitar groove, but the central joke of this song doesn't hold up to repeat listens very well. So your character has fantasized that he has an entire relationship with this woman, without her ever saying anything besides numbers in German, and without him ever being the wiser? I get it - the joke is he's a doofus, but wow, that's another level of oblivious and it makes the joke feel like trenchant to me. Your musicality, singing voice, and mix are all pretty much perfect, but the novelty of these lyrics wore off quickly. I know I was harsh on both of the overtly humorous songs that were entered this week, so just know, it's not a knock on novelty/humorous songs in general; your "North Beach Vampires" last year was one of my favorite songs from Nur Ein XV. I will say that the extra sting at the end, where the woman is NOT actually a numbers station after all, but just trying to get you to tune out, that got a chuckle out of me.


Balance Lost - Really clever take on the approach to the title and challenge. I like how the alienation of modern urban life is made tangible by the language difference between the two main characters, but I would further remark that you're telling their story, so I wanted to hear more of their voices. I also think that structurally, this could have used an intro. I felt a little thrown into the deep end by your starting out already in the first verse. There's one thing working well here that I haven't seen any comment on so far, which is that your two guests don't sound out of place in your mix. I know that's harder to pull off than it seems, but you all sound like you're on the same page about style and singing volume/technique/all the other nitty-gritty technical bits. Well done with the mix there!


Brown Word and the Big Whine - I didn't hate this song, but there were a bunch of little things about it that I felt were each holding it back just a little bit, and the cumulative effect is a bit of a drag. The voice sits uncomfortably on top of the mix. Although I do like the lyrical concept, the line-to-line writing feels a little strained to me. I wished the chorus stood out a little more from the verses. I wasn't clear on why the secret witches here were quoting Shakespeare in German. If they wanted to quote Shakespeare, why not the original English? If they're more comfortable with German, why not say their own thing, isntead of quoting the witches from The Scottish Play? None of these are huge dealbreakers, but all of them put together put a song that I otherwise thought was pretty solid, closer to the middle of the pack. Let's end on a positive note - I really like your bass tone. In my car, with the volume cranked, I could really feel that bass pulling at my center of gravity!


Budget Bears - Over in the judges subforum, I remarked of the title "Pleasant Row" that it could have a very different meaning depending on how the singer chose to pronounce it. Looks like you were the only one to take the bait. Oh well. You have a talent for finding words that feel perfectly natural in their melody. I laughed out loud when I read the translation of Mo's Chinese rant. Things like this are why we phrased it "a guest who sings or speaks in another language." I'm glad we set the challenge in such a way as to allow for this interpretation. There are other elements of this song that helped it stand out on repeated listens - your use of the AAAA rhyming structure in the chorus without any of the rhymes feeling awkward or strained; the comparison of human interaction to music in the second verse; your changing from the chorus groove back to the faster verse groove for the final iteration of the chorus... Yeah, a lot of process-wonk stuff going on here that just makes it click really well.


Moss Palace - I really liked the marriage of subject matter with genre in this one. The 6/4 vibe with frequent modulations between major and minor chords works really well to evoke Parisian sophistication. The use of Duolingo as your "guest" kind of raised some questions for me—not regarding whether that counts as a valid interpretation of the challenge, mind you, just... why? I guess you wanted to imply that Erin's character is just learning French and is speaking in broad generalities because she's never actually been there? But then there's also some subtext of spy stuff, and I don't really get what "Look away / You're too late" means, but... ah heck, I don't know, it's just really easy for me to get swept up in the beautiful musicianship and coy vocals. For the first few rounds I was talking about how great it was to hear Erin take her voice to a new level of power and "oomph," but here we have a song that's really written and arranged to play to the strenth of her more precise delicate vocal range, and I welcome this approach too. It's honestly a little surprising that I haven't heard you guys in a commercial or as background music on an network drama yet.


Crown Shy - Ah, finally, a joke song where the main joke works! Not to pick on Max too much, but this clueless narrator story works much better for me because the encounter is so short, and the other character is saying things of actual substance in his native language for the narrator to misinterpret. I also really like the softly strumming acoustic, the claves keeping time, giving it a vaguely-bossa-nova feel, and the perfect vocals, sweetly sung. To be honest, I don't really have anything else to say about this one: it sounds like you accomplished what you set out to do, and it worked really well!


Grumpy Mike - I'm glad to see you're off the fake-instrument train and back on some heavy rock. The "boat boat boat" transition to the chorus seemed to come out of nowhere for me, but then the actual chorus hits like a roundhouse kick. You went with a potentially silly interpretation of the title, but you committed 100% and it works amazingly. I had you in a tight race for the top spot, but...


Ever Keneivel - Ladies and gentlemen, the recovery of the year goes to Ever Keneivel! I don't think anyone's ever jumped from the bottom of my list in one round to the top in the very next round before! These lyrics catalpaulted you, but also the mix doesn't have anything conspicuously wrong with it either, and the additional languages actually enhance the song and didn't sound like they were there just for the sake of the challenge. My one piece of advice would be to see if you can enlist one or two other singers to contribute in non-Romance languages as well, to really emphasize the macro scale of the song. Mo seems to have some availability for this. :-)
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Three "Pleasant Row"

Post by Geech »

JonPorobil wrote:
Mon Jun 14, 2021 3:47 pm
Berkeley Social Scene - "When I die and they lay me to rest, I'm gonna go to the place that's the best." ;-) Your influences are worn proudly on your sleeve this time around. I really like your chorus on this one. It might be the hookiest thing you've submitted so far. I especially love how the background vocals sing counterpoint over the last chorus. However, Martin's vocal is pretty rough, unfortunately; I heard some really obvious pitch correction in his verse. There are two bigger things holding this song back, as far as I'm concerned. One is that, even though there's a different singer for each verse, I don't think the characters are differentiated enough. If each verse had been sung by the same singer (therefore presumably playing the same character), I wouldn't have been any the wiser. The other thing is your take on the challenge. Don't get me wrong - I don't think this disqualifies you. The challenge has been met, as far as I'm concerned. But it's been met in a way that has a minimal impact on the song. If the one foreign-language line had been sung in English instead, would any other aspect of the song or our reaction to it have been different?
Thanks for the review - this all makes sense. With regards to your main criticisms, this is basically what got us eliminated last year at the same point - guest and challenge (foreign language/tell a story) were short shrifted. Maybe by next year I'll have learned this lesson.
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